Boston sludgy hardcore band NIHIL recently released 2 new tracks from their upcoming LP Foundations, set to be released in October and available for pre-order at this crowd funding campaign. Their efforts down the barrier between metal and hardcore and brings in the storm of dense, technical modern cross-genre storms of raging, sludgy metalcore riffage that add a greater scope and personality to their compositions. “Foundation” would probably serve an enjoyable outrage, so I literally can’t wait for the full release.
Catch the band live at American Legion in Florence, MA on July 19th.
The following interview was conducted in early Spring 2016. Top photo by Chris Robertson.
Hi guys! Thanks a lot for taking some time with IDIOTEQ! How are you? How’s Boston?
Zach: Hi, thanks for having us. We are very excited about our upcoming tour starting on April 13th. The tour kick off will be at O’Brien’s in Boston. This will be our longest tour so far and my first time traveling to Texas, which I am personally excited about. In addition to the tour we released a single ‘Gears’ from our upcoming full length ‘Foundation’.
Yeah man! Let’s go through it all bit by bit.
Duos in heavy music are often appear as a curiosity. How long have you guys known one another, how did you guys team up for this project and why there’s only two of you?
Zach: Jake and I met about 4 years ago while playing together in a band. After the group disbanded approximately nine months ago we decided we needed to head in another direction musically. We began working together and tracking the initial musical ideas that would become NIHIL’s first full length album Foundation. To a certain degree we did initially intend to be a three piece, but much like Genesis after Peter Gabriel left to pursue his own work, our third member, my brother Max, has moved on, heading in a different direction. After his departure we chose to move forward as a duo. Most of the material for our upcoming album had been written primarily by Jake and I. Max was brought in to work with us primarily on drums. That being said he absolutely influenced the feel of certain musical phrases. His drumming style is very unique and dynamic and it would be unfair to say he didn’t influence the outcome of our tracks, including our first two singles. Since his departure we have begun working with our friend Devin McGrath. He will be performing live with us on our upcoming tour, throughout April, May, and June. All this being said the two-piece or duo grew out of both necessity and a desire to simplify or focus our primary vision. We feel this focus has allowed us to put together an album of which we are both very proud.
Isn’t it a struggle to not have a full pack to back you up with more ideas, instrumentation and with, most of all, live appearances?
Zach: In fact we have found the opposite to be true. Following a two members writing pattern has allowed for much more freedom and much less distraction. Our ideas aren’t funneled through and boiled down. We feel this helps us maintain the true message and feel of the song we write, from idea to demo to album. Regarding live situations we did discuss back tracking but made a decision to play stripped down, live, and raw. What you see is what you get. A throwback to a time when musicians were responsible to reproduce what you hear on their record in a live environment. Regarding instrumentation both Jake and I are multi-instrumentalists so we have yet to see any apparent roadblocks in bringing our ideas to fruition. Our past works and experiences in a variety of musical mediums has allowed us both to bring much more than we have currently found facility for to the table.
Great! Ok, so do your next steps rely entirely on the potential success of your current crowdfunding campaign?
We feel that, like many things, Indiegogo is a tool, one we chose to use to offer very special ‘early bird’ pre-sale offers for our upcoming album Foundation. It has allowed us to offer some things we would not normally have offered in a standard pre-sale campaign. I also feel as though it is a way for people, fans and friends alike, to see what we are doing. It gives anyone who contributes an eye into what we are doing now, as well as what we plan for the future. Regardless of the level of success our Indiegogo campaign brings it we will continue forward as planned. That being said a successful campaign will allow us to spend more time on the road doing what we love.
How did your previous experience in the music ‘business’ help you develop this new project?
Zach: Over the past few years I have worked on a variety of projects in a variety of genres. Due to my previous work in production and recording we were able to demo all of the tracks for Foundation at my very small home studio. I previously worked as a booking agent, manager, web developer, and graphic designer. I feel that all these skills learned out of necessity at first have done a lot to assist our ability to get music out and to get on the road almost immediately after starting the band. You do this because you love it, but it takes a lot of work to sustain in an industry flooded hopeful artists looking to get their message heard.
No doubt. So what are some of the biggest challenges you face as DIY artists?
Zach: There are a fair amount of challenges that come from being a DIY artist. From booking tours to releasing a full length album you are responsible for getting it right. No one to pick you up if you stumble and fall. You have to be self-motived and prepared to work long hours both day and night. This is true doubly so for a band with two members. Jake and I both work full time jobs when we are home, and nearly every night we spend at least a few hours talking to practicing or working with promoters, venues, and merch suppliers. So, I would say the biggest challenge is just keeping everything sitting about water. All DIY artists who work hard at what they do have to fill many roles and Jake and I have filled just about all of them at some point in the last six months.
Speaking of your new upcoming full length, what’s the status of its production? Composing-wise, do you have all the tracks ready to be polished in the studio?
Everything is ready to go. We have worked out all the parts and started tracking already. Just need to move some pre-sales so that we can finish it up and press it. The largest expense at the moment is Vinyl. It takes up about one-third of our total expenses moving forward. Unlike a compact disc you can’t just duplicate it onto a blank. Every record has to be pressed individually from a big mass of vinyl material. Due to it being such an involved process it is much more expensive that other mediums. That being said we are very excited to be putting our music to my personal favorite medium.
Is it a struggle to organize the whole process? With all the so-called vinyl revival and hipster hype, how tough is it to arrange things with record plants?
I wouldn’t call it a struggle but it is a process. As I mentioned before, unlike CDs, vinyl records are processed from a raw material. Because of this one needs to be vigilant when choosing a pressing plant to insure a quality press. In addition it is increasingly difficult to arrange things with plants. Due to an influx of new clientele many of the plants that press high quality vinyl have increased production times. Exacerbating the situation is a growth of secondary companies, or ‘middlemen’ who promote the idea that they themselves press vinyl when in fact they are out sourcing and creating an value added market for themselves. This being said I feel the extra effort is worth taking on. In my opinion CDs have no actual value, beyond being a medium in which a digital audio file is passed on or sold. This can be accomplished through digital downloads, whereas vinyl itself takes on a different character all together. Analog allows for a smoother tonal playback overall, due mainly to various frequency limitations, as well as a larger physical medium in which to display album art in its original intended size.
Ok, so sonically, what can we expect from your new upcoming record? Did you bring any additional elements to the table for the new album?
Listeners can expect a wide range from hard and fast punk-hardcore to slow and sludgy death metal influenced tracks. We brought a lot of elements to the table on this album including, but not limited to, alternative percussion, spoken word, and unusual instrumentation. We felt that pursuing different directions in instrumentation lent a textural element missing in many modern hardcore and metal records. Personally my favorite instrument used is called a waterphone, an instrument used in many older horror movies. This all being said we have worked to maintain a raw and true sound. There is a propensity in modern metal to over-effect instruments, especially guitars. I feel that when this isn’t done for the betterment of a records musicality it takes away from the truth and purity of the message. We work to keep that message clear while still allowing for an enveloping sonic experience.
Speaking of the message, lyrically, I’ve heard you’re big fans of Isaac Asimov. Can you expound more on your non-musical inspirations?
Issac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy was, and continues to be, a huge inspiration to both writers and sci-fiction to this day. The scale of the series is massive, and details the fall of a Galactic Empire over thousands years, and the rise of an order called The Foundation, which protects humanity from barbarism. Our record deals a lot in the metaphor of rebirth and creating some better from the ashes of failure. It also serves as a literal foundation for the band, creating something we hope to build on for years to come.
With NIHIL, what do you hope to build on this year and beyond?
We absolutely hope to build off of this early summer tour and the release of our album later this year. We are currently speaking with some bigger bands about touring, as we continue to pursue larger markets for our music. We hope that the album’s release will allow for agents and management, as well as our fans, to get a better scope of our sound and abilities. I feel as though we have been moving forward at a fair pace so far, but without proper exposure any band or artist is bound to rattle around in obscurity. It takes support and voices to make progress. Grass roots as they call it in the political spectrum, or DIY as many of my friends would say. This is the base for everything and without it we have nothing. A lot is owed to the people who have helped us to get this far and we strive to due their support justice. In an ocean of voices we put forth effort to be the loudest, and the heaviest.
You’re hitting the road big time this Spring. What spots did you put on the list this time?
I have been pushing to hit Texas since the day we started the band. We will be there from the 9th to the 15th of May. I am very excited about going as it is one of the few places within the US that I personally have never visited. I am not entirely sure what to expect but I am sure we will have a good time. We are on the road now and have been for a little while. So far it has gone quite well. We all enjoy the chance to get on stage every night and introduce people to new material. In addition I will be spending my birthday in New Orleans, another place I have never been.
Any chance to see you guys in Europe sometime soon?
We would love to head across the Atlantic. As of now we don’t have any plans to go to tour in Europe, but that is only because we haven’t researched the markets yet and found an agent willing to take us on overseas. Hopefully by the end of the year we can find the right agent for the job. I have spent a fair amount of time traveling overseas backpacking. If we had a chance to add playing music to that equation I would be very happy to be involved. We hope to get there soon and go back often.
Speaking of performing live, how do you manage to create a proper sound live? Do you hire some additional musicians to back you up with your thick wall of sound? Tell me about the technical part of NIHIL live.
We don’t backtrack or bring on other musicians as I feel the sound can be properly displayed with a three piece. Of course there are minor parts missing but I feel as those the raw energy makes up for it in a live setting. It allows the instruments that are played live, guitar, bass, drums, vocals, to have a clearer presence. Jake and I both use a rather simple but direct and heavy pedal setup which, in our case, allows us to separate ourselves tonally by scooping a bit of the low end from my guitar rig and adding some top end onto the bass. We had previously discussed using backing tracks but we feel that it cheapens the experience of the listener. I feel that when people come to see you live you should be, just that, live. Too many bands now-a-days rely on backing tracks to the point where the instrumentation and musicianship is lost in the sea of electronic noise.
True true. Are there any live performers you truly admire and would like to promote here?
I would like to mention that we are going out on the road with HOT GOSPEL in the fall. We just starting booking dates a few days ago and we are very excited to be hitting the road with them. There are so many bands out there that are taking big risks to do something in an industry flooded with half-hearted effort. I admire those who continue to push for their dream but haven’t found it. It’s tough out there for smaller touring bands. So, I would say I admire those bands and would like to promote the idea of local artists and venues supporting bands to drop everything to hit the road. It’s a lot harder than it looks and I feel too many great bands don’t get a fair shot.
Ok, so what else? Is there anything you’d like to discuss before we sign off?
I would like to mention that we will be on tour until June 5th, and back on tour in the fall to support our upcoming full length Foundation. The best way anyone can show support is to come out to a show in their area and pick up a shirt or a record. That is the only way to keep working and touring bands alive. Support live music and don’t forget to dance.
Thanks a lot for your time! Cheers from Warsaw!